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Patrick Vieira did NOT get a testimonial after being sold by Arsenal… He will be desperate to prove a point

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Few footballers can dream of being adored by a fanbase like Patrick Vieira by Arsenal. Sixteen years after his departure, they are still singing his song.

At six feet tall yet graceful on the ball, he was the epitome of the great Arsene Wenger teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Vieira won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups with Arsenal – the last three of those seven major trophies came as captain, including from the respected 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ team.

And yet, as he returns to the club for the first time on Monday night as manager at Crystal Palace, Vieira may have every right to be saddened by the way Arsenal have treated him in the years since that last title.

Vieira celebrates with Arsène Wenger

Patrick Vieira raises Premier League trophy in 2004 and celebrates with Arsene Wenger

Vieira returned to the Premier League in the summer to become manager of Crystal Palace

Vieira returned to the Premier League in the summer to become manager of Crystal Palace

In August 2005, just a year after the success of the Invincibles and 12 months before he would have reached a decade with the club, Vieira was sold to Juventus for £13.75 million in a deal approved by Wenger. The Frenchman accepted the move, but only after it was made clear to him that the club was willing to let him go.

There were extenuating circumstances. Arsenal were stuck for money in the years before they moved to the Emirates Stadium for £390m in 2006 and £13.75m was a lot of money for a 29-year-old in 2005, but history will remember the sale as a big mistake from Wenger.

Until then, the French boss in north London could do no wrong. He had approved the sale of Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka and successfully rebuilt it to win more titles, but Vieira was a player his team couldn’t live without – and one who still drives the club to this day. not properly replaced.

Arsenal have never finished outside the top two in any of Vieira’s eight full seasons with the club, but in the 16 years since then, Arsenal have only had one top two finish. He scored the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup shootout victory over Manchester United with his last ball for Arsenal – they would not win another trophy for nine years.

Vieira's last ball kick for Arsenal was the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final shootout

Vieira’s last ball kick for Arsenal was the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final shootout

VIEIRA IN ARSENAL

Signed: August 1996, £3.5 million, AC Milan

Appearances: 406

Goals: 34

Major Trophies: Premier League x3 (1998, 2002, 2004), FA Cup x4 (1998, 2002, 2003, 2005)

Sold: August 2005, £13.75 million, Juventus

So after selling the player more than anyone else responsible for their success – just before his testimonial season – to fund a stadium where he could never play for them, Arsenal’s glory years ended. The irony will not have been lost on Vieira.

To rub salt in the wound, Vieira continued to win titles for several years after leaving Arsenal. The first of these was stripped from Juventus after the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, after a season in which Vieira had dominated Serie A, but the Frenchman would make up for that by winning three in a row after signing for Inter Milan.

Vieira returned to Arsenal as a player three times before retiring and received standing ovations each time. In his only season with Juventus, Arsenal won 2-0 over Highbury in March 2006. Later that year, he played for an Arsenal Legends team at the Emirates opening for Dennis Bergkamp’s testimony. He could be forgiven for wondering what could have been that day. Finally, he returned to Manchester City in April 2010 and earned a touching farewell when he was substituted in the second half.

Vieira’s move to City in January 2010 meant Arsenal missed another opportunity to harness the powers of their club legend, who had made no secret of his desire to return to England when Jose Mourinho no longer wanted him at Inter.

Vieira took on Arsenal at Highbury for Juventus in March 2006 in his first season after being sold

Vieira took on Arsenal at Highbury for Juventus in March 2006 in his first season after being sold

Dennis Bergkamp is embraced by Vieira during his testimony when the Emirates opened in 2006

Dennis Bergkamp is embraced by Vieira during his testimony when the Emirates opened in 2006

Wenger’s fledgling Arsenal side topped the league in January, joining a triple title race with Chelsea and Manchester United, but they would go down badly, finishing 11 points adrift in third place.

As he approached his 34th birthday, Vieira’s powers were no doubt on the wane, but he could have been a fantastic addition to the dressing room for the run-up. If that seems a bit far-fetched, Wenger didn’t hesitate to get hold of Sol Campbell, two years older than Vieira, the same month he became available for free.

City also offered Vieira the path to coaching he was looking for – and an Arsenal wouldn’t or couldn’t. After retiring after the 2010-11 season, Vieira went straight to an academy role as football development manager, before becoming their reserve team manager in 2013. He then became manager of feeder club New York City FC in 2015.

Vieira’s managerial career didn’t take off right away, despite showing promising signs early on in both New York City and after taking the job in Nice in 2018, but he has already shown enough at Palace to suggest Arsenal have another trick by not having him spend their coaching system.

Of all the tricks against Arsenal’s Vieira since 2005, none is perhaps more symbolic than the absence of a statue of one of their greatest captains in the Emirates – the stadium his leadership and sales helped pay for.

Vieira received a standing ovation after being substituted for Manchester City in his only competitive game at the Emirates in April 2010.

Vieira received a standing ovation after being substituted for Manchester City in his only competitive game at the Emirates in April 2010.

The club announced in 2009 a process of ‘arsenalization’ of the Emirates, essentially transforming it from a flat-pack stadium into one unique to the club. In 2011, three statues of former manager Herbert Chapman, former captain Tony Adams and record scorer Thierry Henry were unveiled – only Adams (10) won more trophies than Vieira’s seven, Chapman won just three and Henry four.

Vieira gives instructions to Wilfried Zaha

Vieira gives instructions to Wilfried Zaha

Three years later, statues of Bergkamp and former director Ken Friar were also erected. Still no sign of Invincibles captain and serial trophy winner Vieira. In fact, the only place he can be seen in the stadium is in a mural of 32 legends that wraps around the stadium. All that can be seen is his back.

Vieira has been strongly linked with the job at Arsenal both times it has become available in the last three years, although he ended up being overlooked on each occasion for Unai Emery and tonight’s opponent Mikel Arteta.

The first of these was more understandable given Vieira’s lack of experience in the time following Wenger’s departure, but he could have reasonably hoped they would choose him over another much less successful former captain before appointing Arteta in December 2019.

After winning the lavish ovation from the adoring Arsenal fans tonight, Vieira has a chance to prove those running the club wrong. On so many points.

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